Nowadays, it seems that, wherever you turn, someone has added that handy little “Select Language” drop-down menu to their website, displaying a long list of languages. Just choose one and enjoy the magic of automatic translation…right?
Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Google Translate, the most widely known machine translation tool currently available on the market, has certainly made great strides in recent years to improve this type of AI-powered translation. Indeed, if you were to insert a well-written, non-ambiguous English sentence, it’s likely that the Spanish would be perfectly understandable, albeit a bit unnatural. However, most of the online content we engage with on a daily basis just doesn’t meet these strict requirements.
Let’s imagine a standard business website written in English: it probably contains colloquial language, several key terms, and images with important textual messages. The output, in Spanish, will look something like this: most of the colloquial messaging will get translated literally, key terms will be translated inconsistently, and images with text will not be translated at all. Is it better than nothing? Probably, but in the end, it gives Spanish-language users a much lower-quality experience than their English-speaking counterparts.
As the availability of this service has expanded, so has the use of related disclaimers. Wix, a major web design provider, requires that all Google Translate users include a disclaimer stating that “[n]o warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, is made as to the accuracy, reliability, or correctness of any translations” and “[if] any questions arise related to the accuracy of the information contained in the translated website, refer to the <primary language> version of the website.”
Government agencies have also been quick to add their own disclaimers. For example, the New York State Department of Education warns users that “[a]nyone relying on information obtained from Google™ Translate does so at his or her own risk,” while the official website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognizes that “no automated translation is perfect nor is it intended to replace human translators.”
As with most other technological advances, it seems likely that the use of machine translation tools will only increase in the coming years, but it doesn’t have to be the only option. Working with human translators, who are capable of understanding context, target audience, and so much more, is one way to produce translations that truly value end users and provide them with full, equal access to content on and off the web.
Interested in moving past automated machine translation? Get a quote from a human translator by contacting us here.